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Genocide:
Context &
Legacy
 Oppression
 & Atrocities
 American
 Ambassador
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Personal
Experiences
Punishment
Recognition 
& Demands 
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The Story of a Survivior of Sassun massacre

y name is Asdadur Giragosian. My home was on the sunny side of a high mountain, in the central village of the beautiful valley of Geligozan. This valley presents a charming scene when viewed from the top of one of the surrounding mountains, with many villages scattered here and there, and clumps of huge walnut trees between, giving the valley its name, 'Valley of Walnuts.'

"Up to I894 my family was a prosperous one, as were surrounding mountains, with many villages scattered here and us were, on the whole, friendly, though they frequently practiced their habitual business of stealing cattle and sheep, but we were generally able to re-take our own, or others in their place. Our family consisted of twelve members, and we had many cattle and sheep. In the whole village were two hundred families, who possessed in the aggregate more than 15,000 sheep. Of course each of the sixty Armenian villages in the Sassun district (of which 4z are now ruined) had many cattle and sheep.

"In the spring of 1894. the Kurds began to drive away our sheep more boldly than usual. At the same time the government, suspecting that there were many armed revolutionists in Sassun, sent to search for them, but failed to find them. Theyr then wished to arrest some of our notables and take them to Mush as revolutionists, saying, `You have revolutionary societies here.' We resisted and prevented their taking our men. As I said, the Kurds made several attacks that spring, carrying off our animals, and we pursued them and rescued the animals, killing one or two men, whom we buried so they could not find them. Twice they attacked with this result but the third time we were not able to bury the two Kurds we killed, and they carried them to Mush and showed them to the government. A great tumult resulted, and it was reported, ` The Armenians of Sassun have rebelled and massa cred the Moslem inhabitants.' Also, 'They are armed with rifles and cannon.' The Turkish Government availed itself of the excuse, and instigated the Kurds to attack the Armenian villagers and massacre them. This they atternpted to do, a large number attacking us, aided by many soldiers in disguise. But though the Kurds had been well armed by the government, we were able, owing to our superior position to withstand them successfully for fifteen days. The Kurds were constantly repulsed, leaving many dead and wounded. During this time the Turkish soldiers were being rapidly collected in Merge-mozan. About twenty-five battalions of soldiers were gathered there. In these fights with the Kurds we lost only seven persons, but three Armenian villages were burned.

"The assembled soldiers now began to attack. One day we heard the sound of their bugles, and for a whole day they continued to advance with great tumult and besieged Geligozan on the sides. The road to a very high mountain named Andok was left open, and we were able to carry ou r families and animals there, but this in a hasty manner, while fighting with Turkish soldiers. Then the army divided, one part going toward Andok, the other coming toward us. We had already left the village and taken refuge among the rocks above it. Our position enabled us to withstand them all day, but we could see that they had burned the village of Husentsik, near our own. Toward evening they made a fiercer - attack and got nearer us. Our ammunition was nearly exhausted, and we began to retreat. They now set fire to our village too, and from a distance, in the dark, we could see it burning. We fled to Andole, where our families and animals had been carried, but seeing that it was not a safe place to stay, we left it, and after a day's journey over rocks and mountains, towards evening reached a ruined church. Here we passed the night, but in the morning soldiers appeared and we hastened our flight. All our goods and most of our animals we left there. Near evening we reached a mountain named Gaia-rash (Black Castle). We were very tired and hungry, but had nothing to eat, so we hilled a sheep and ate it. But few of the villagers were to be found, the greater part having fled to other places. From this place we fled in the dark to the neighboring Kurdish village, where our Aghas (chiefs) lived. Before morning we learned that Aghpig was also burned. Our Kurdish Aghas came out from the village to defend us against the soldiers, but did not succeed, and returned to the village, and we were obliged to continue our journey, though tired and thirsty.

"When it was possible to stop, our first care was to find water and kill a sheep for food. The following day we learned that Hedink also was burned. Hearing this we fled to Heghgat, and then to a near mountain. The next morning we heard that Heghgat was burned. We descended from the mountain into a valley up which we slowly retreated, changing our position every day. But on the third day our pursuers appeared, and we left all our sheep and fled with our cattle. Soon we left the cattle too. One of my brothers, Atam, fled with the family, while my other brother, his fifteenyear-old daughter, and I, lagged behind and entered a forest, but when they saw my brother, two soldiers fired and he fell dead. Hearing the noise, the girl cried out and they saw her and shot her dead also. Me they did not find, and towards evening I came out of the forest, and hurrying forward; he family and told them of my brother's and his daughter's death. We wept aloud and spent the night disheartened, tired and hungry. In the morning, thinking the soldiers had turned back, we returned to a village to obtain food. I found my brother's body and buried it, but before I had time to bury the girl, the soldiers appeared. My remaining brother fled with the family, but I entered the forest. In the morning I found another refugee in the forest, who was seeking his family. He told me he had killed an ox, but had been obliged to leave it because the soldiers appeared. We were so hungry and faint; that we could hardly walk, but we sought the ox and were about cooking some meat when soldiers again appeared.

"So we left the fire, climbed up the mountain, and hid behind some rocks. The soldiers saw us and two of them came to find us. We waited there for a few moments all trembling with terror. Suddenly a soldier appeared, aimed his gun at me and fired, the bullet piercina my leg. The other soldier atso fired and pierced my thigh. Then they came up and severely wounded me with their short swords, in the shoulder and thigh. I shut my eyes and they thought me dead, and were about to depart when they saw my companion behind a rock ; they fired at him with true aim, and I heard his horrible ci-y as he fell. Before leaving us, one of the soldiers suspecting I was still living, proposed to cut my body to pieces, but his companion rejected the proposition, objecting that there was no water to wash the swords. So they merely threw some large stones at me, which fortunately did no special harm. When the soldiers were far enough away I spoke to my com45panion to see if he was living, and he answered very feebly saying he could neither walk nor move, and I was in the same conition. Oh! our distress then! Tired, hungry, thirsty, severely wounded, we should die in torture, or be the prey of wild beasts. I cried to the soldiers, `We are still alive, come and put an end to our misery.' I cried but they did not hear me.

"After a while two Armenian fugitives passed by and saw us, and we besought them to carry us to a ruined sheep-cote near by. They were so hungry and weak they could hardly walk, and said they were not able to carry us, but yielding to our entreaties, they made a great effort and carried us there, gave us some water and fresh cheese and departed. We remained there three days, these friends coming to ns at night and going away in the morning. We soon saw that this was too dangerous a place to stay, as we constantly heard the sound of guns and bullets passing over our heads. So they transferred us to another ruin, where we were tortured by the heat by day and the cold by night, naked and wounded. Our friends did not do much for us, not believing we could live. After three days my companion's mother came, bringing some millet to cook for us, but going out to get some water, she heard the sound of bugles and fled, but soon returned and cooked it. The next day our brothers came with the woman and tried to cook some wheat, but were again frightened by the sound of the bugles and fled, my brother wishing to carry me with him, but I said, `It is better for you and the family to escape. I must die.' Toward evening they came back and carried us on their shoulders to another place, where some other families had already taken refuge. Soon they were obliged to leave this place also, fleeing in haste, and left me there. I remained in this dreary place eight days alone with my suffering save that they sometimes brought me a little food. After the eight days we heard that a firman had come ordering the massacre to cease. The soldiers then drove any fugitives they met, wounded or not, to the ruined villages. I remained thus amona the ruins for two months till my wounds were healed. As soon as I was strong enough, I left the ruins and slowly made my way to Vartenis (an Armenian village on the Mush plain). There I found my wife, but of the rest of the family I know nothing-"

Story of Serope Asdadurian

"Our family consisted of fifteen members, of whom four are now living, the others having died by the hands of the Kurds and Turks. 

"Before the year 1893 the brother of the celebrated robber chief, Mousa Bey, had abducted the daughter of the head man of our village. After a while the girl was rescued from his hands and married to a young man of Vartenis. In the spring of 1893 she visited her father's house, after which her father wished to send her, under safe escort, to her husband at Vartenis. He besought my father to carry her, and he accepted the charae. On the way fifteen Kurds attacked the party and attempted to carry off the woman, but eny father and his companions resisted, and delivered the woman safely to her husband, two of the Kurds being killed in the affray. My father fled to Russia, but soon returned, and for a month or so remained so concealed that no one saw him. After a while, however, it became known that he had returned, and suddenly one day the Mudir (Turkish petty governor) of the neighboring village surrounded our house with a band of zabtiehs (gendarmes) to seize my father. He knew that to be taken was probably to be killed with tortures, and determined to sell his life as dearly as possible. So when the zabtiehs burst open the door and cacne in my father killed one of them and rushed out with his rifle. But in his haste he struck his head violently against the frame of the door and fell, nearly dead. One of the zabiehs fired and killed him. They then killed my mother, my two sisters, my uncle and four cousins. They carried away our cattle and sheep, robbed the house and burned it."

So the crimson storm of carnage rolled on, until not less than thirty villages had been laid waste, so completely destroyed that even the names had been erased from the official records. As to the number of killed it is almost impossible to give accurate estimate. It must have been not less than five or six thousand, many put it much higher. Some soldiers said that a hundred fell to each one of them to dispose of, while others wept because the Kurds did more execution than they. Some, however, claimed to have been unwilling actors in the scene and suffered great mental torments. The wife of one noticed that he failed te pray, as had been his invariable custom. She spoke of it to him and he answered, "God will not hear me. If there is a God he will take vengeance for these awful deeds. Is there any use to pray? "It is also told of other soldiers that on reaching their homes they inquired of Armenian acquaintances, "Who is this Jesus of Nazareth? The Sassun women were constantly calling out to Him."

At last the carnage stopped. The commander-in-chief of the fourth army corps at Erzingan reached the field in time to save a few prisoners alive and to prevent the extermination of four more villages that were on the list to be distroyed. He then sent a telegram to Constantinople that reballion had been overcome and that order had been restored in the province. For this he received a medal and the thanks of the Sultan.

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Excerpt from the Book
"Turkey & the Armenian Atrocities"
By Rev. Edwin M. Bliss

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Updated 30 September 1999 ..
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